He lowered his chin slightly, adjusting his gaze directly into the eyes of his soon-to-be-wife, and cleared his throat.
“Someday I’ll tell our children about this moment,” he said, and continued to read the vows he had written with unshakeable conviction. I knew he had never been more sure of himself just then, reflected in the depth of his words, the strength of his spirit and the courage to believe beyond all doubts. There was a whole history that had brought them to this very frame, standing toe-to-toe on the rooftop of the Museum of Contemporary Art on State Street in Madison, Wisconsin. It was a declaration of love under the arch of heaven, in the presence of friends and family.
It was near impossible for me, the kid sister of the groom, to keep it together. It has been just as hard to keep it together ever since. I didn’t think that I could love the two of them any more than I already did, until last weekend. And now, my heart is both overflowing with joy at the same time it is breaking with each passing day that takes me further from those moments. Never-met-before bridesmaids became best friends for a few days and trolley rides around the city made the wedding party feel like the cast of Mad Men during a photo shoot on the set of some site location. Only this wasn’t a TV show, or a movie for that matter. This was real life, and it was their story, being lived out loud and in the flesh for all to be a part of. As I listened to my brother read his vows, I realized that no Hollywood writer before, and no Hollywood writer after, will ever be able to put to paper what he wrote for his wife. No actor will ever be able to look at her the way he did in that moment, and no director would ever be able to envision the moments that have shaped their journey; crafted by all the hands of God along the way. This was far better than pretend. They were living their love to the fullest.
So much so, that I fell in love too. I fell in love with the people, with Madison (again), with the food, certainly with the alcohol but especially the water, with my shoes, with the process of getting all dolled up. I fell in love with the laughter, the dancing, the photobooth, the speeches, the stories and conversations. I fell in love with my new friends and forever family. Everything was beautiful, and I had no questions. I was curious for nothing, held captive in a moment that felt like a lifetime of bliss. This was happiness. I was basking in the light of their love, and I know I’m not the only one. It was a gift they had given, unknowingly, to all who were present. Like my trip to Finland, everything was designed for a specific purpose and carried a true intent. There was no excess of anything, only all that belonged. And it was a phenomenal experience, a moving celebration.
True love can bring you to your knees, and I felt my soul lowering itself as it recognized just what exactly I was a part of. It was an honor, and I am so grateful to have known my brother all the days of my life. Literally. A stand-up guy, a real class act. An epic storyteller. A believer who makes others believe too. A genuine caregiver, and a compass to follow. The mapmaker who says, now create your own legend and the teacher who says tell me what it means. A take-your-time thinker and a this-is-going-to-be-incredible kind of do-er. Trust me. I’ve always trusted him. And it’s how he met his match. She is the spirited force of adventure, the radiant warmth of comfort, and the otherworldly love of culture, its people, places and things. She is the crystal goblet and the wine. The giver of endless laughter and the keeper of forever thoughts. The goodness in all you wish you can be. She is.
Together, they are leaders in love.